Every enthusiast of the legacy that the Italian cult film industry has bestowed upon us has his or her favorite director, albeit for entirely different reasons. Some prefer the keen sense of style that Dario Argento’s earlier works possessed over the relatively superficial (but still damn good) contributions to Euro cinema from someone like Joe D’Amato — to say nothing of the mind-blowing ditties that Antonio Margheriti thrust upon us all! Like the many great painters and sculptors that preceded moviemaking auteurs such as Lucio Fulci and Sergio Martino, each of these cinematic artists went through their own particular “periods.” Just like Spanish painter Pablo Picasso had his famous Blue Period, Umberto Lenzi and Ruggero Deodato had their infamous cannibal periods.
Yes, kids, I just compared the classic artists of Europe to a bunch of Italian exploitation movie directors.
But, as it is with any form of art, there’s always a pioneer in the program. Much like the great Michelangelo influenced so many other artists of the Renaissance and beyond, the celebrated Mario Bava helped to inspire almost every Italian director that has ever dabbled in the world of science fiction or horror. But the gruesome visionary tactics that Bava often employed in his bloodier movies didn’t inspire only Italian filmmakers: the Americans also took note of his work. And one of the greatest examples of “uncredited homages” to ever transpire from an Italian giallo film to an American slasher flick would be an unforgettable moment from his 1971 black comedy, A Bay Of Blood (Reazione A Catena), wherein a couple involved in the ol’ horizontal mambo are penetrated by a spear.
Sound familiar? Well, it should, since the same thing happened ten years later in Friday The 13th Part II when Jason Voorhees killed two naughty teens who started makin’ the sex! But that wasn’t the only scene from Mario Bava’s A Bay Of Blood that wound up in the faltered slasher sequel: in both film, a poor actor receives a forceful machete implant directly in the face.
While it might not be the greatest work he ever made, Mario Bava certainly caused a lot of encouragement among other filmmakers for the less-than-moderately-budgeted A Bay Of Blood alone — despite being a box-office failure and the subject of many a scrutiny by morally-obliged critics and audiences alike. That didn’t stop the movie from playing, though: it was so favored by drive-in/grindhouse distributors that they frequently retitled and re-released it on their respective circuits under titles like Twitch Of The Death Nerve, Carnage, and the oh-so-campy The Last House On The Left, Part II! Years later, after cult movies became trendy and cult film historians came into play, people began to catch Bava Fever — and A Bay Of Blood (or whatever you may know it as) wound up becoming a classic for the usual amount of ingenious movie tricks Mario is so well-known for to this day, as well as its deliberately insane story.
The premise here is so simple, it hurts. The rich, elderly and wheelchair-bound Countess Federica (Isa Miranda) is brutally murdered at the very beginning of the film — at the hands of her own husband. Immediately after the uxoricide has come to a close, however, the seemingly-would-be wealthy widowed man receives a calling to the world beyond from another (unidentified) assailant. From there on in, nearly everybody that so much as steps foot onto the property wherein the Federica bayside mansion is situated is almost immediately dispatched in a new and entirely gruesome method by persons or persons unknown. The killing continues, even after the film’s top-billed characters — Thunderball’s own Claudine Auger and spaghetti western regular Luigi Pistilli — show up to try to inherit their estate. The slaughter continues still, right up until the film’s bloodily ironic, completely wacky and truly unforeseeable conclusion.